I call him Loki.
His name is old, but he is young. A young god of dance and song. A new god.
He moves between us, dancing with us as though the dance were a choreographed play, but we can only guess at the next move. He flits from partner to partner, male and female alike, but he needs no partner, for he is, after all, a god. He dances with the music, with the rain and the earth.
When he returns to dance with me, we circle each other, our feet pounding the muddy earth to the heartbeat of the music, our eyes locked. We are hunter and hunted. His lips pull back from his teeth as his hands become claws and he snarls, and I am bold, for I bare my teeth and hiss in return.
He is Cernunos and he is Herne. He is a wolf. I can’t say what I am in this play — perhaps hunter; perhaps hunted.
The song ends and I pull myself close, standing on my tip-toes to put my lips to his ear. Being in the presence of a god changes me – makes me so unlike the shy girl I usually am; makes me brash. I tell him he is beautiful. Still holding my hand he tells me, “So are you.”
Another song and he dances alone. He pounds the earth with his hands, and his palm and fingers come away muddy from the rain. He smears the mud upon his skin – he throws back his head and howls into the rain.
We dance again – he thanks me, though we do not touch. We dance around each other, moving and playing together, our skin never so much as brushing.
As the music comes down, I stagger and realize I must hydrate and eat. I must replenish my energy, for I poured all of it out in libation at his feet.
It’s a gray midsummer’s day, and as the sky tears open and pours on us, it’s the most beautiful day I’ve seen in months.
Under the downpour and the watchful eyes of the altar (the Lord and Lady, crowned by antlers and crescent moon) we dance, and steadily we move closer together. I don’t know who touched whom first, but soon our bodies press and briefly we entwine like serpents. Then I am pulling away, dancing backwards and smiling as he dances forward. We are playing that game again, circling each other as sharks, as vultures, and each can see in the other’s eyes a glint which is the wild.
This young god I dance with lends me his breath as I lose mine. We circle close, our hands touching and our fingers flitting across one another’s skin. I breathe in his air so that it stirs in my lungs. As he bequeaths me this gift, our lips come close. I tip my head, looking from his mouth to his eyes as I part my lips – then I smile and spin away.
My skirt flares out about my aching thighs as I come to be still. I stretch my hand out to him and he smiles. He lowers his head and he dances, and as he dances, he comes for me.
Once it has happened, I will not quite remember how it happened.
We dart close to one another; we pull quickly away. Our lips hover close, then I spin back and I smile. I dance towards him one moment, away the next.
Our dance is wild — an offering at the foot of the altar; an offering of our spirits, our energies, our sweat.
As we draw close he touches my hair, sometimes tangles his fingers there, but as we draw away from one another, his fingers always slip effortlessly free. As we spin we press our heads together, then fly apart like atoms bursting into the void. Our feet pound so hard that the chain around my ankle breaks, falling into the mud.
Our dance — our play — carries us ‘round. This part of the dance floor is ours, marked firmly by our pounding feet, save for the faerie children who flit through, laughing, barely missing being crushed beneath our feet. Some of those children stop to watch us, and for a moment he turns to them, squatting low and hissing playfully as he dances towards them. One of the young girls with a feathery tiara in her hair bares her teeth and hisses in return before turning tail and vanishing into the crowd.
He takes up a fire dancer’s tool — a pole, each end meant for bearing flame. He spins it expertly, my young god of dance and song — for he is also a firebird. He spins the pole around me as I dance, carefully, his movements practiced. The pole stirs the air against my skin as I dance around it, as it spins, but it does not once make contact.
As my fingers trail into his hair, he guides my legs with his. We move together and I marvel that I have, at long last, found a dancing partner whose body moves with mine — whose body is a comfortable fit against mine.
And he is a god.
The more I lose my breath, the more he lends me his — the closer our lips linger. As we part he stretches his hand out to me, brushing his thumb across my lips. For a moment I lock my eyes with his, then close them as I feel the pad of his thumb beneath my lips. I press a kiss there.
Circling, we keep our eyes on one another as he draws his hand back, as he lifts his thumb to kiss the place where I had planted my own. The corners of my lips turn slightly up.
Once more wrapped up in his arms, I find my lips pressing against his. I am aware suddenly of the sensation of his smooth mouth and I withdraw, startled because I don’t know when or even exactly how it happened. But as I withdraw I am pleased, smiling and realizing that it no longer felt natural to not kiss him as we dance .…
I wonder sometimes how gods are born, for even the stars aren’t eternal — and neither are the gods. As they evolve, as they change and as they are forgotten — as they die, they must, then, be born.
Are they born of the same stuff as dreams? Are they birthed around the fires of our ancestors, in stories told to children by mothers; made immortal in the memory of books? Do they survive in our primordial mind, in libraries and statues lost to the sands, soils and seas of the earth?
Under the rain I kissed him one last time, and as he turned to face the altar (the altar from which the music flowed, the altar into which every last bit of us descended) I slipped away into the crowd. My bare feet padded through the muddy grass, and when his eyes sought me I waved goodbye before I disappeared among the men and women of the festival.
Gods must be born somewhere, pulled down from the ether and given form by the words on our lips; drawn from eternity and chiseled into our dreams like images in stone. They must be inspired inside of us — little sparks of stardust in our souls and in our eyes; little bits of divinity we recognize in one another from time to time. Perhaps we found them there – in each other.
Under the cool shade and the high noon sun I lay at the foot of the altar and rested. I stared into the bright blue sky and watched the seeds of cotton wood trees drift by, and I thought it was so beautiful that I almost cried. When I rose to leave, after kneeling at the altar to give thanks and blessing, I was reminded sweetly that my young god of dance and song was no god at all, but a beautiful man with a very human name.
As I walked across the compound, as I passed through the gate, I left the Realm behind and with it I left my small myth.
Perhaps I left the gods as well.
No matter. I will return for them in time.
[Tahni Nikitins has been a practicing pagan for seven years, though dedicated to no one pantheon or Deity, and has been writing since she could maneuver a writing utensil. She is currently attending a community college with a psychology major and a minor in comparative religions.]